Natural phenomenon in Yosemite National Park: flowing fireFebruary 22, 2019
What looks like liquid lava is what is currently drifting down El Capitan, a famous rock in Yosemite National Park. The natural phenomenon is rare – and extremely popular with photographers.
The Horsetail waterfall in the US National Park Yosemite is rather small and inconspicuous. Actually not a place that attracts the masses. At least that’s true for most of the year.
But in February – when all conditions are right – it becomes a hotspot for tourists. They crowd at sunset at the eastern foot of the famous El Capitan Climbing Rock and watch for a few minutes as the darkness falls, as suddenly the sparks fly along the narrow waterfall – like a trickle of water Firefall becomes.
At least it seems like fire is flowing down the mountainside. But the fiery embers are an optical illusion. The natural phenomenon is a “unique lighting effect,” writes the Yosemite National Park on its website.
This requires perfect conditions. First of all, the waterfall has to flow at all, which it does only when the snow melts on the 2307 meter high rock and there is enough meltwater.
In addition, the sky in the evening must be very clear, so that the rays of the setting sun unabated hit the waterfall on the eastern edge of El Capitan. “Even a bit of haze or light cloud cover can prevent or reduce the effect,” reads the National Park website. And then the position of the sun in the sky has to be right. Therefore, the phenomenon is visible – if at all – only on a few days in February.
When all factors come together, the waterfall changes color in the evening for a few minutes – and turns orange in a fiery glow. A feast for photographers and Instagrammer who share their best recent footage on the photo platform in their thousands.
Ever since the US nature photographer Galen Rowell published a photograph of the luminous waterfall in 1973, visitors from all over the world have made a pilgrimage to the California National Park year after year. They set up their tripods, have their fingers on the trigger and wait for the moment in which the Firefall shows.
The fire cases of Yosemite
Because of the large crowds, the National Park let 2018 only 250 cars per day on the visitor parking lot. In addition, tourists had to make an online reservation. You do not have to register in advance this year. However, parking on certain adjacent sections of the Southside and Northside Drives is prohibited, the park website states.
But no matter where you park, visitors will have to walk a bit to get to the Horsetail waterfall anyway. You should be prepared to “walk at least a mile”, wear warm clothes and boots, and bring a headlight or flashlight.
The cold, 15 inches of snow and slippery paths – the circumstances are currently contrary, according to the Instagramer “lightsparq” currently. But they would not have stopped photographers from coming to the waterfall to watch the ten-minute wonder. “Passion beats obstacles,” it says below his post. And then: “Happy Viewing!”
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